When the final ballots were counted in the November 2020 elections in Texas, the political landscape remained largely the same as it has for years: with Republicans controlling every statewide office and both chambers of the state Legislature.
But even with Republicans controlling the levers of government, many of the priorities of the Republican Party of Texas fell by the wayside when the Legislature convened in 2021.
Every two years, thousands of delegates to the Republican Party of Texas Convention meet to conduct party business, which includes electing officers, tweaking the party platform, and selecting legislative priorities. These priorities are meant to be a directive to Republican lawmakers expressing the will of the grassroots of the party for what they would like to see accomplished during the 140-day biennial legislative session. Additionally, they serve as a preview to voters for what they should expect if they vote to put Republicans in office.
This time, GOP convention delegates tasked lawmakers with eight legislative priorities. This is how each of them fared in 2021.
Efforts were killed during the regular legislative session. Though an omnibus bill was finally passed during a special session in the summer, the new law actually decreases the penalty for illegal voting from a felony to a misdemeanor.
The Legislature passed a constitutional amendment to prevent places of worship from being closed during emergencies, in response to the shuttering of churches last year during COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Voters later approved the amendment, with the proposal receiving 62 percent of the vote statewide.
Child Gender Modification
Though the Texas Senate passed multiple pieces of legislation to outlaw the practice of gender modification procedures in minors, the Texas House led by Speaker Dade Phelan repeatedly killed those efforts. Despite House Republicans claiming the bill has support in the chamber, Gov. Greg Abbott has refused to add the issue to a special session.
Abolition of Abortion
While the Legislature did not pass a bill completely outlawing abortion, the recently enacted Heartbeat Act outlaws abortion when a fetal heartbeat can be detected—usually after six weeks. While the legislation is being challenged in courts, conservative estimates say the law may have saved 100 babies a day since it went into effect on September 1.
The longest-running legislative priority of the Texas GOP, the Legislature passed a version of permitless carry this year, which allows law-abiding citizens ages 21 and up to carry a firearm without receiving a license to carry.
While the left has made moves to take down historical monuments on public property, with some proposals even threatening to alter the Alamo in San Antonio, the Legislature made no progress on protecting monuments in 2021.
Once a priority championed by Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, school choice legislation was largely ignored this year. During the debate of budget, the House voted 115-29 to approve an amendment to stipulate that state funds “may not be used to pay for or support a school voucher, education savings account, or tax credit scholarship program or a similar program through which a child may use state money for nonpublic primary or secondary education.”
Ending the practice of local governments using tax dollars to lobby the Legislature (often against the interests of the taxpayers themselves) has long been a priority for conservatives. Legislation to ban the practice was killed on the House floor by State Rep. Chris Paddie (R–Marshall), who procedurally postponed its consideration to the birthday of the legislation’s proponent, State Rep. Mayes Middleton (R–Wallisville).
The chairman of the Republican Party of Texas added his own priority related to reforming executive power for the governor and local governments shortly after the state party convention. This legislation was also killed in the Texas House.
Delegates to the party will once again meet June 16-18 in 2022 to determine the legislative priorities going forward.